Langered - The Jenkinses (self released)

langeredIf you could bottle the brashness on the five tracks from this EP by The Jenkinses you’d have a product to bring lasting peace to the Middle East, send a man to Mars and restore hair to Peter Garrett’s head. All considered impossible before now. 

The Jenkinses are a two-guitar four-piece from Brussels, full of grizzled veterans from Belgian bands like Contingent, Nervous Shakes, Vice Barons and Wild Ones. Only Nervous Shakes are familiar to me and they were great. The exception to the grizzled descriptor is guitarist Juliette Drumel, who’s the other guitarist-vocalist James Neligan’s better half.  Juliette gets her own picture on the inside of the digipak.  Happy wife, happy life, right James?

“Langered” - that's an Irish term for drunk - see, I like ‘em already - is the band’s second release, the first eponymous EP presumably being physical product when it came out four years ago, but now only available digitally. So how's it sound?

Who Is Innocent? A Singles Collection 1983-87 - Fixed Up (Nineteen Something)

who is innocentTheir legacy was just two LPs and a stack of singles but Fixed Up’s punky and soulful garage rock touched people in their native France and all the way around to the other side of the world in Australia.

A lot’s been made about the Sydney-Detroit connection, mainly through Radio Birdman and its now fading local musical legacy. The irrefutable fact was that Birdman and its associated influences ruled the Sydney roost in the early 1980s. As true as that was, you can make a strong case for the affinity between Australia and France being almost as important, once the Sydney underground scene started to diversify and expand. 

The Franco-Ausstralian link was made when John Needham, chief of seminal Sydney label Citadel Records, started dealing with the likes of Sonics Records in France. Suddenly, there was a pipeline for Australian bands to have their music heard on the Continent - meaning outside the UK where the perpetually jaded music press briefly adopted Aussie arty pop, junkie rock and the swamp sound for a time. 

Love Hypnotic - The Jim Mitchells (Off The Hip)

love hypnoticDon’t judge a book by the cover, they said. They were right. The contents of ”Love Hypnotic” leave its quirky artwork for dead.

Descriptor? Somebody said “acid washed garage goodness” and that’ll do. Respect. That one can’t be topped. There’s an almost effortless drift to this Sydney band’s sound that makes it click. Wafting melodies and dreamy vocals jostle with rustic guitars to create an alluring soundscape. 

I know. You’re dying to know if there is an actual Jim Mitchell and the answer’s Yes. There’s the man - on vocals and guitar - who's evidently the creative multi-instrumentalist, and his band. And they are a band. They even play live and tour - a lot by contemporary standards. 

Cookie Trail - The Country Dark (Humu Records)

cookie trailHoly North Pole! These Finns know sure how to host a hoedown. It must be all that midnight sun.

The fourth album by The Country Dark is like a downhill luge ride on amphetamines with a bellyful of rye whisky. Previous exposure to 2016’s “Hypnic Jerk” serves as a great primer but “Cookie Trail” kicks the weirdness up by a considerable notch. This is where the early Beasts of Bourbon butt heads with Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

"Cookie Trail" is Americana with a severe genetic flaw. The perpetrator is toothless, last seen hanging around a murder scene and left driving a stolen muscle car. The Country Dark wear hob-nailed cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat. The hills they occupy do have eyes. The Country Dark carry an axe and they aren't afraid to use it on all nine of these tunes.

13th Floor Renegades - Last Great Dreamers (Ray Records)

13th Floor RenegadesNo matter that this band of Englishmen have had more band names than Spinal Tap. "13th Floor Renegades" is arresting glam-pop rock and hookier than a cashed-up weekend angler's tackle box.

Do you like Cheap Trick? Never really got 'em myself but "13th Floor Renegades" is what they'd sound like if "Dream Police" hadn't been an overdone, ear-wig of a hit in Australia while I had my head in the local variant of Detroit rock and punk.

Originally called Silver Hearts, then Last Great Dreamers, Jet and then Jet City, before breaking up and reforming (twice) as Last Great Dreamers, the band sprang from the '90s Soho metal scene. These days, they're firmly built on the songwriting axis of Marc Valentine (vocals and guitar) and guitarist Slyder.

Subway Zydeco - Broadway Lafayette (Hound Gawd Records)

broadway layfayetteDetroit boy and founder of The Gories, Mick Collins, always did love to fuck with expectations in The Dirtbombs. Now, he's doing it again with some new playmates in Heavy Trash's Matt Verta-Ray, Matt's wife Rocio, and members of Swiss creole kings Mama Rosin.

"Subway Zydeco" sounds like it was cooked up in the kitchen of a cajun restaurant in the East Village, with a liberal sprinkling of blues. You can bet a New York minute against a free ride in a checker cab that this was exactly the intention. It's an LP of obscure 45s taken off a Louisiana jukebox and transplanted to a New York City dive bar.

If you came expecting a Blues Explosion - Jon Spencer co-founded Heavy Trash with Matt Verta-Ray - you're in the wrong place. "Subway Zydeco" is more folky than swampy, its pumping rhythms tied to accordion for most of the way.

Brian James – Brian James (Easy Action)

brian james LPBrian James recorded this in 1990. That’s post-The Lords of the New Church, when his co-founding of The Damned was a shrinking image in his own career rear vision mirror. It was his debut solo album when it came out on French label New Rose, yet it barely rates a mention in summaries of his back catalogue.

Cue: UK label Easy Action to right that wrong and drop a big, fat vinyl re-issue.

If Brian James had only played on all (and written most) of “Damned Damned Damned” and then pulled a Jim Morrison by growing a beard and a beer gut and bunking off to live in obscurity in Africa, he’d still be remembered as one of British punk’s great progenitors. The guy was equally integral to The Damned's second album, “Music for Pleasure”, too but the band disowns that one for its lame production.

In Too Much Too Sun - Kevin K and the Krazy Kats (Rankoutsider Records)

too much too sunKevin K has been plying this trade for 40 years and almost as many albums. His latest American crew, The Krazy Kats, are in synch with his modus operandi of gritty but melodic rock and roll.

As the title reveals, Kevin's latest studio album takes a generous leaf out of the New York Dolls book while slyly alluding to his longtime adopted home of Florida. 

Kevin K was always going to end up back on Rankoutsider, the label run by ex-Lazy Cowgirls frontman Pat Todd. Like Todd’s current band, The Rank Outsiders, the label specialises in down-to-earth, streetwise rock and roll music - of which Kevin K is the embodiment. 

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that there’s a distinctive Kevin K Sound: It’s no frills, guitar-laden punk rock, with a very tough edge, informed by life in the dives and gutters of New York City’s Lower East Side. Kevin’s plaintive vocal sits oddly but comfortably with the gritty sound of his bands. 

Blues Trash - Reverend Beat-Man and The New Wave (Voodoo Rhythm)

beat man and the new waveAfter 30 albums or so under a variety of monikers, Beat-Man could take the easy way out and keep churning out records of garage skronk. You know, music to kill any party, as the label slogan goes. Instead, he’s continuing to take chances.

The Swiss madman's brief with this project was simple: Pick a collaborator and play them a song once. Set the tape running. Use the first or second take. No overdubs. No arguments. 

The Reverend describes the album as “a mix of blues trash, new wave folk and dark no wave garage punk and rock'n'roll”. No arguments. Stylistically speaking, “Blues Trash” IS all over the shop. The bands behind him and his friends range from minimal duos to full-blown folk groups.